Set yourself up for success: Goal-setting for wellness

Cover art Erka Inciong

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With any grand adventure into the unknown, the smart traveler carries with them a map to guide them to their destination. In business, teams conduct studies and build out strategy plans before launching new projects. When the destination is clear, the path to get there reveals itself. The traveler only needs to take the steps.

Your personal wellness journey is no different.

As a wellness coach, I’ve found that it’s my clients who articulate and commit to certain goals before starting a new workout program that achieve the best results. Most importantly, they appreciate the journey they’ve undertaken.

But is it enough to just list down goals? Often, I hear clients say: “I just want to get healthier” or “I’d want to lose some weight”. Don’t get me wrong, simple, general goals are better than having no goals at all. But to make the process more effective, I like having my clients set their goals following the S.M.A.R.T principle:

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Achievable,
  • Relevant,
  • and Time-bound.

These guidelines make the goal-setting process not just aspirational, but strategic. And it’s just as effective for personal wellness, as it is for pursuing any professional goal.

Let’s go back to one of my examples. “I just want to get healthier.” There as countless ways of measuring health, and even more ways to get healthy. But what path is right for you? Broad goals aren’t helpful. Specific goals call for specific actions, and those are always going to be easier to follow.

So maybe we use the second example, “I’d want to lose some weight.” That’s a bit more specific. A week without rice will likely reflect on the weighing scale. A month of non-stop high intensity interval training will definitely reflect on the weighing scale. But so would simply spending a week without rice. If you’re looking to lose, say, 30 lbs, maybe the no-rice diet won’t cut it.

Always make sure the goals are measurable, as hard data will not only contextualize your program, but motivate you as you chart your progress.

Of course, goals need to be achievable or else the client gives up when the goal is near impossible. If you say your goal is to get strong enough to lift a truck, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. There’s nothing wrong with being optimistic, so long as you keep goals realistic.

But even realistic programs can be difficult. When you get derailed, it takes a lot of motivation to get back on the path. A personally relevant goal will handle that for you. If you’re trying to lose weight so you can finish that 10km company fun run your team is organizing, then you have some skin in the game to keep you motivated.

And when you build a timeframe into your goals, you ensure two things: that you start now and not later, and that the journey you’re embarking on is a sustainable one. If you have three months until that fun run, you know you need to start your endurance training as soon as possible. But also that you aren’t pushing yourself that way forever.

The gun-start program

In Village Fitness, I’ve conceptualized what’s called a Gun-start program, where clients can articulate their ultimate wellness goal and the coaches help them set mini-goals under the four pillars of wellness: Exercise, Nutrition, Supplementation, and Lifestyle.

We also list down three concrete follow-up actions that put the context of time in achieving those goals. Once my client and I are finished with the consultation, I ask them to review the goals they’ve set and sign the document, placing their commitment to fulfilling them. I also sign the document, signaling my commitment to helping them achieve those goals.

Keep in mind that wellness goals vary per individual and that you should take your time in really searching for that deep “Why” that should propel you take the actions that you need to.

Having a personal trainer with experience working with various clients is vital in ensuring you not only build a solid program, but set the right kind of goals for yourself. For some, building up their physique is the end goal, and that’s fine. But as one of my clients once said to me: “The gym is not only for aesthetics but it’s also a place for healing”.

Find your personal wellness goals, define them, make them concrete, and watch how you motivate yourself to do things you never thought you could.


Ryan Fermin is an entrepreneur and fitness professional focusing on sports science, strength training, and conditioning. Find him on Instagram at @coach.ryfit.